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Tracey E.Schelmetic

[January 8, 2003]

Dot Commentary

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Managing Editor, CUSTOMER [email protected] Solutions

All The Tech News Thats Fit To Be Invented

As every tech editor knows, January is a lousy month for innovation. Nothing new comes down the pike. Press releases flow into our inboxes at a trickle (not that Im complaining about that) and usually dont raise much interest. (Acme Corp. cements relationship with its existing customers! Translation: We sent them a holiday fruit basket.) Even the mainstream news is boring this month: Raelian cultists probably faked the cloned baby story (theres always got to be at least one group for whom L. Ron Hubbard wasnt quite weird enough, they have to take it a step further), tax cuts, changes in accounting procedures, Amtrak reducing its fares, Jennifer Lopez is getting married for the eighth time in twenty minutes. Wake me up when the year starts.

So, in order to spice things up this week, Im going to make up some new technologies I would like to see. Normally, we technology editors arent allowed to invent stories, unlike our esteemed colleagues at the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News (Space Aliens Pledge Their Support In War With Iraq), so I think that its only fair that we get that chance at least once a year. I did try to emulate the tabloids headline style once, but Skills-Based Routing Shocker! The Truth Comes Out! just didnt seem to fit atop TMCnet.com very well. So, here goes

The Media Feedback Mouse Button
I want an extra button on my mouse. I want it to be able to send a signal, when pushed, into my computer, over the Internet, and directly into the chairs of the lead news editors at CNN and MSNBC. When they begin beating a story to death by putting it on the home page so many times youre convinced you are mysteriously getting into their Web sites archives and re-reading the same days uninteresting news over and over again (Lance Whatshisname NSync member in space, for example), I want to be able to hit my mouse button and zap the editor out of his chair with a brief and harmless but uncomfortable electric shock. Alternatively, I want a public opinion button on CNN that will allow us to vote to send the members of NSync into spacepermanently. Rememberin space, no one can hear you sing.

A Box That Prorates My Time Viewing Content Online
I want a box that sits next to my computer that determines the exact amount of time I spend being forced to watch pop-up ads and their more offensive cousins, the kind that crawl across the screen, slowly obscuring whatever it is youre reading. This is the online equivalent of making you buy an $8 movie ticket and then forcing you to watch five commercials before the movie starts. If you make me look at pop-ups for a minute a day, I want that 30 minutes a month deducted from my bill.

Web-Enabled Exercise Equipment
Each time I spend 35 minutes cycling to nowhere on the exercise bike at my gym, I find myself sweating through the same three-year-old, dog-eared copy of Architectural Digest. I have nothing against architecture, but I find it challenging to successfully erect a pile of towels on a shelf in my bathroom; the concept of putting up a whole building is pretty foreign to me. Think of the time that could be saved if I could do my daily Web surfing while doing my daily pedaling. Plus, the digital read-out on the exercise bike could be linked to a Web site with calorie burn information, and I could place my take-out lunch order based on how hard Id worked: 30 minutes earns tuna salad on a bed of lettuce, for 45 minutes of cycling, I could throw in the bread and a pickle on the side.

A Tax On Broken Links
A buck a link a month. Think of the money that could be raised for charity! Think how much less cluttered the Internet would be!

A Web Filter That Blocks The Rest Of Us From The People Who Seem To Think We All Need Web Filters For Our Own Good
This is technology that would be helpful to the same kind of people who seem to think that other peoples children shouldnt be allowed to read Harry Potter books lest it turn them into card-carrying mini minions of Beelzebub.

A Backup Copy Of My Brain
Dont you ever wish that you could make a backup copy of your brain on one of your most sparkling, lively and witty days, and save it for those mornings when you wake up dull-witted, over-tired and barely able to remember how to put on your socks, let alone the complexities of the project on which youre currently embarking at work?

A brain copy plus a voice synthesizer could also be responsible for conducting those telephone conversations that are socially required, but not much funsuch as those in which you find yourself listening to a lengthy description of your great aunts bunion condition, or a friends protests that the fact that he stays home seven nights a week creating his dream girl with The Sims has nothing to do with the reality that he hasnt had a date with a live, carbon-based woman in three years.

The Humperdinker
This is a very small, unobtrusive device that must be installed, by law, in the computer of anyone under 18, or those who have been in trouble for hacking or virus creation previously. What it does is detect when the computers user has done something unlawful, such as create a nuisance virus, launch a denial-of-service attack or hack into Web sites to obtain information and credit card numbers. At that time, it replaces every MP3 file on the users computer with the entire songbook recording collection of Englebert Humperdink (both live and studio versions). For variety, this device is also available as the Manilow-izer.

Though I dont expect to see any of these devices at the Consumer Electronics Show next year, I do expect the engineers of the world to get busy working on them.

Until then, I think Ill go read some press releases about companies refining the type font in the index of their users manuals.

The author may be contacted at tschelmetic@tmcnet.com. She has never been kidnapped by aliens.

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